Paging through Carnet de Voyage is like a virtual backpack trip through Europe and Morocco. Craig Thompson’s sketchbook travel diary depicts in simple yet telling detail the moments, individuals, and local color that made indelible impressions on him during a combination book tour and search for exotic new inspiration.
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Over the past forty years, Mary Oliver has accumulated praise and awards for her poetry and prose, including a Pulitzer Prize. Her recent collection of poems, Blue Horses, builds upon her previous explorations of nature and spiritual considerations. Observations about her surroundings twist into keen insights of what it means to live on earth and what she yearns for. Strong imagery pierces through Oliver’s unassuming conversational tone, turning nameless feelings into something tangible as she grapples with how she fits in the world. “I’m not trying to be wise, that would be foolish,” she writes. “I’m just chattering.” Whether intentional or not, Oliver exudes wisdom, as she meditates on the material world and beyond.
April is National Poetry Month! Stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen Services desk on the second floor or email firstname.lastname@example.org to help you find poetry, prose, and everything in between.
Title: Half the Sky
Author: Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Page Count: 294 pages
Genre: Nonfiction, Social Issues
Summary from publisher:
With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth. Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world with anger, sadness, clarity, and, ultimately, hope. They show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad.
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.
1. Half the Sky is not the first book to raise worldwide social issues. What about this work makes it stand out? Why do you think it has taken hold, even sparked a movement?
2. Would you describe Half the Sky as a difficult book to read? A worthwhile one? Believable? Tragic? Overhyped?
3. From the introduction: “Many of the stories in this book are wrenching, but keep in mind this central truth: ‘Women aren’t the problem, but the solution. The plight of girls is no more a tragedy than an opportunity.’” Do they make their case?
4. How did you read this book? In large chunks? Small sections? Audio? How do you think that impacted your experience?
5. Have any of you seen the documentary before or after reading Half the Sky? Before or after? How did that complement your experience? Any significant differences?
6. How did you respond to the writing style and the book structure? Would you say these choices are what makes it accessible?
7. Gender politics and issues can be tricky. Do the authors succeed in moving this beyond a “women’s issue” to a “human rights issue”? Would the case have been more difficult to make if two women were writing about the issues?
8. “Frankly, we hesitate to pile on the data, since even when numbers are persuasive, they are not galvanizing. A growing collection of psychological studies show that statistics have a dulling effect, while it is individual stories that move people to act. In one experiment…”
Is this a fair representation? Do we rise to stories but nod-and-pass too easily with statistics? Is it true across the board or do you think it differs according to individual? Were there numbers that shocked you?
9. The authors do rely on stories to bring the issues to life. Which ones stood out? Even if you don’t recall names — which situations, images, atrocities have stayed with you? What proposed solutions excited you or seemed most promising?
10. Did it surprise you at all that so many were willing to share such painful stories with a male American journalist? In what ways does owning and telling the story empower the individual?
11. “Rescuing girls is the easy part…the challenge is keeping them from returning.” How could this be true?
12. How does a book like this affect how you view the world?
13. Were you surprised by the extent to which women were involved in oppression or abuse of other women? Why or why not?
14. Did you find the book balanced in revealing what doesn’t necessarily work/unintended consequences without cherry-picking results?
15. Some raise the concern that journalism of this type can be sensationalistic, voyeuristic, or even endanger the subjects. In what ways are these valid? Does the good outweigh the bad?
16. Did you sense any political agenda or bias in the writing?
17. Even though the book focuses on Africa and Asia, many of the problems addressed occur in Europe and the U.S. as well. How are these issues similar across regions, and how do they differ?
18. The writers address the idea of cultural imperialism: “If we believe firmly in certain values, such as the equality of all human beings regardless of color or gender, then we should not be afraid to stand up for them; it would be feckless to defer to slavery, food-binding, honor killings, or genital cutting just because we believe in respecting other faiths or cultures.” How do you respond? How do we walk a tightrope in terms of telling another culture what they believe is right or wrong?
19. From the documentary: “Sometimes people want to do too much, so they do nothing. They say, ‘I cannot help.’ Everyone can help. Everyone can do one thing.” Is there truth in this? How do we overcome those mental obstacles?
20. The book was first published in 2009. Do you think anything has change? Have you heard of the “movement” before reading Half the Sky?
21. When we feel convicted or inspired by a work such as Half the Sky, how do we keep that active? How do we keep ourselves from forgetting or sinking back into complacency?
Half the Sky Movement webpage
Lit Lovers Discussion Questions
Videos produced by Half the Sky Movement
Discussion facilitation guide for Half the Sky
Video interview with Kristof and WuDunn
Extended interview with Kristof and WuDunn
Article: What’s So Scary About Smart Girls?
If you liked Half the Sky, try…
David Margolick describes the lives of two girls in the famous photograph from Little Rock Central High School’s desegregation in 1957: a stoic African-American girl walking on the first day of school followed by a white girl, her face distorted as she screams racial epithets. Elizabeth and Hazel is a thought provoking and memorable exploration of how this experience affected their lives in attempts to reconcile the painful, traumatic experience within themselves and with each other.
With spring on the way, it’s time to get started on the household DIY projects that have been set to the side. Sherry and John Petersick share more than 200 ways to decorate and update a variety of living spaces. Mixing photographs with drawings and humor with helpful tips, the couple presents ideas ranging from using a Sharpie to spruce up a shelf to more complicated projects like creating sink backsplashes. Sherry and John spread the wealth of where they receive inspiration from by listing their favorite websites and magazines plus featuring guest bloggers throughout. With such a range of ideas, Young House Love will be sure to inspire a variety of crafters, from the inexperienced to the more seasoned.
Academy Award Best Picture runners-up Selma, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, and American Sniper have something else in common. Though each claims to be based on actual events, all have come under fire for taking too many liberties with the facts. These are hardly the first dramatizations to cause a stir. In Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies, enthusiastic experts consider how specific films have skewed our understanding of historical events. From Gandhi to Malcolm X, Gone with the Wind to JFK, and even Jurassic Park to Dr. Strangelove, films have the power to change what we think we know to be true. Don’t know much about history? Watch a movie! Just bear in mind that events may have unfolded a bit differently than as portrayed.
Every Friday the Library will bring you short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.
For these and other fresh reads, stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk. While there, talk to a Readers’ Advisor about new and old titles tailored to your taste.
New: Fiction Books
New: Nonfiction Books
You don’t have to be a Democrat or a Republican to enjoy 41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush. This glimpse into a son’s love and admiration for his father shows a remarkable man who served in WWII, founded an oil company, and was a Congressman, United Nations Representative, Vice President, CIA Director and the 41st President of the USA.
Our Adult Winter Reading Program is in full swing! For every book you read or listen to in February stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen Services Desk on the second floor to fill out a drawing slip and you could win a prize!
If you’re looking for inspiration on what to read next, while you’re at the Fiction/AV/Teen Desk you can speak with a Readers’ Advisor, email us at email@example.com, or take a look at some of the displays featured throughout the library such as the one highlighted here.
Author: Susan Cain
Page Count: 352 pages
Tone: Thought-provoking, Reflective, Accessible
Summary from publisher:
Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects.
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.
1. Quiet has had a lot of popularity and has been on numerous bestseller lists, including the NYT bestseller list for sixteen weeks. Why do you think Quiet has been a bestseller of this magnitude?
2. How did your perception of introversion and extroversion change or not change after reading Quiet?
3. Why do you think Western society evolved from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality?
4. Is it better to have people perceive you as a “competent leader” or overlook your leadership?
5. Why do you think we’re more inclined to follow those who initiate action?
6. What are ways we can look past sparkly speaking skills on a group level? How about when you are speaking with an individual?
7. What studies or facts surprised you?
8. Cain uses a lot of anecdotes to back up her claims. Would you count anecdotes as a credible source?
9. How do you think Cain did writing a book on the strengths of introverts without discounting the value extroverts bring to society?
10. What are the advantages of being an introvert? What are the advantages of being an extrovert?
11. One of the anecdotes Cain shares is of a tax lawyer who had trouble performing speaking events with very short notice. She thought it spoke poorly of her skills and knowledge, but it turns out she needed more advance notice for speaking. Cain writes, “But once Esther understands herself, she can insist to her colleagues that they give her advance notice of any speaking events” (126). This is one example of one of the kinds of tweaks, Cain suggests introverts make for their success. How do we begin to understand ourselves, so we can make these kinds of tweaks in our own lives?
12. How realistic do you think those tweaks are that we might make in our daily life? How about in the tweaks Cain talks about in the workplace?
13. Cain shares a statement by a woman from Taiwan who attended graduate school at UCLA, “Oh in the U.S., as soon as you start talking, you’re fine.” How does this statement ring true in the U.S.? How does it differ? Are there situations when this could be of benefit or of detriment?
14. There is a part of the book where Cain talks about fixed and free personality traits, basically saying that there are some personality traits that we are not stuck with having, and there is more flexibility in our personalities. She asks the question, “But if we’re capable of such flexibility, does it even make sense to chart the differences between introverts and extroverts?” (206) How would you answer that question?
15. What lessons did you glean from Quiet about interacting with the people around you, whether you’re an extrovert, introvert, or ambivert?
16. What are ways you can modify your behavior to better connect with introverts? How about extroverts?
17. Do you think introverts or extroverts tend to use the internet to communicate more, whether it be email or social networks like Facebook?
18. Who wouldn’t like this book? Who would disagree with it?
19. This book was divided in four different parts discussing essentially the workplace, the biology of introversion, Western culture and other cultures, and finally relating to others. What section or sections did you find most useful or interesting?
20. Do you think Quiet will have any lasting power? It’s popular now, but will it still be popular/enlightening/necessary in ten years from now? How about twenty? Or forty?
21. Cain is advocating for the Quiet Revolution in which we go about in life paying more attention to introverts. What would be risked if we pay more attention to introversion? What would be gained?
22. Do you see the emphasis on groups appearing in places other than work or school?
23. Do you trust Susan Cain as the author? Why or why not?
24. Do you have any suggestions of interesting psychology/science nonfiction books?
If you liked Quiet, try...